What do gender roles mean for kids in 2019?

Boys can wear skirts, girls can battle injustice across the universe. When it comes to gender, kids see no boundaries.


Every week we hear our Trendspotter panel of kids aged 9-12 rebel against gender stereotypes. Our girls are keen gamers, into Fortnite, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 and PUBG, and enjoy watching and playing football. While the boys talk hair and fashion, and trying out face masks:


Freddie has been worried about his spots – real and potential – and went shopping for blemish treatments and face masks this week.


The lines are blurring and gender is becoming less of an issue: when we asked kids recently on our Beano.com website to tell us if they are a boy or a girl, more than a quarter of our audience declined to answer (27%).


Why? Because kids are caring less about the male/female divide. This generation see no barriers to who they are and what they can achieve, and they accept others’ choices. Brother and sister Samuelle and Lola sum this up:


Samuelle and Lola were visited by their local police community support officer, who is transgender. She previously visited them as a man and this inspired much debate about transgender uniforms – they both agree that boys should be able to wear skirts and girls should be allowed trousers if they choose.


Gender-neutral kids

There’s a rising awareness around gender-neutral upbringing. Celebrities such as Pink and Kate Hudson are vocal on the subject, with Kate posting on Instagram that she’s raising her kids 'to feel free to be exactly who they want to be’. And there are reports that the latest royal parents-to-be Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have planned a gender-neutral nursery with white and grey shades.


Research shows that leaving the pink or blue wallpaper out might be a good thing. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that placing strict gender expectations on kids could raise their risk for mental and physical health problems.


Some brands are on board. Amazon no longer uses gender-based categories for its kids’ toys. The Disney Store banished boy/girl labelling from its Halloween costumes, instead branding them ‘for kids’. Websites campaigning for gender-neutral toys, such as British non-profit group Let Toys Be Toys, provide alternative choices.


John Lewis has removed the gender distinction for its kidswear range and River Island’s collection features clothing designed to be worn by both boys and girls.


Ballet for boys is becoming more popular

Balance for better

Barriers are breaking down. But old beliefs and attitudes sill exist around issues such as harassment, gender pay gaps and career progression – on both sides of the gender divide.


Our Trendspotters tell us about discrimination they’ve experienced, with one girl recounting how boys in her football session refused to play and train alongside her and her female teammates.


It’s not just girls who encounter challenges when pursuing their passions. The London Boys Ballet School (LBBS) founder James Anthony told the Telegraph:


‘I never had the guts to tell anybody how much I wanted to dance. I used to get stick at school just because my mother taught dance, even though I'd never had a go myself!’


Now The LBBS has 120 students and is paving the way for other major cities such as Edinburgh and Manchester to set up similar schools.


Girls can still love pink …

Despite all the campaigns and media stories about gender neutrality, it’s ultimately kids’ choices that matter.


They might be gaming and playing football, but some of our Trendspotter girls still naturally gravitate to cute characters and pink clothes:


‘Everybody thinks Fortnite is for boys but it’s not – and the girl characters are so cool. My favourite one is Brite Bomber, she has pink hair and rainbows.’ Lily


And the boys to their masculine side …


Max now has a real man cave complete with smart TV, PS4 and Echo Dot.


Overall it’s about freedom for kids and letting them achieve their potential without boundaries, whatever they aspire to be.


Those who smash the stereotypes are the trailblazers. Like male midwife Dilan Chauhan, who began training at 18, and makes up one of the 188 men in the 43,168 midwife workforce. Or Jodie Whittaker, who took on a traditional male role as Doctor Who and made it her own.


Anyone who says this isn’t progress can catch the Tardis back to the 20th century.


How Beano for Brands can help your marketing strategy

Beano for Brands is a kid-first consultancy and agency for brands seeking to connect with a new generation who are already rewriting the rules of engagement, creativity and even the world around them.


Our fortnightly reports are drawn from a wide range of touch points with real kids and families: Trendspotters (a UK-wide panel aged 9-12), insight and analytics from Beano.com – the UK’s fastest-growing kids’ site, external research and 80 years of working with kids. Sign up at beanoforbrands@beano.com.


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